Original Publish Date: Jul 22, 2019
There are two options for registering your business in Ontario – You can either incorporate your business and obtain Articles of Incorporation or, if you are interested in starting a small business, you can register for a Master Business License, also known as a Business Name Registration or BNR. This business name registration allows you to operate your business in Ontario under the business name you wish to use. There are significant differences in the business structure of a Master Business License and corporation, and it is a good idea to examine these differences to ensure you are choosing the right business type for you.
There are three types of Master Business License that can be registered:
- Sole Proprietorship (1 person)
- General Partnership (2 or more people)
- Trade Name (Operating-as name under existing Articles of Incorporation)
The cost to register this type of business is quite low and allows you to get your business started up quickly and easily. The registration process is easy and allows you to obtain your completed document on a same-day basis, directly to your email address, so you always have an electronic copy for your records. But, if you do ever need a copy resent to you, we keep it on file for the 5 years that it is valid, so we can quickly resend it solely to you upon request.
What business information is included on a Master Business License?
The Business Name Registration is a one-page document that includes the name of the business along with the address, name of the owner(s) and business activity. If the business is registered as a Trade Name under a Corporation, the legal entity attached to the registration will be the corporate name instead of an individual name.
Each registration also includes a Business Identification Number (BIN), which is a 9-digit number unique to the license and is used to make amendments to the license or renew it when it’s time to do so. When you register or renew your license, it will be valid for 5 years, and both the creation date and expiry date are listed at the bottom right corner of the document. In order to keep your business registration active, it would need to be renewed every 5 years. When registering your business name with Ontario Business Central, we will maintain the required renewal date of your registration and send you an email notification prior to the expiry date of your registration. Renewing your license is just as easy as the registration process, and you will use the same information provided as the original registration. You also have the opportunity to update the business information, such as addresses and business activity.
There is a 60-day grace period after this expiry date, where you are still able to file a renewal; however, after this date has passed, the license can no longer be renewed and will drop from the Ministry system and be archived. If this happens, the only way to reactivate the business registration would be to register it as new. This means a new Business Identification Number (BIN) would be issued, and the creation date would change to the new registration date.
What does a Master Business License / Business Name Registration provide?
Before registering your business name, it’s important to understand what the business license provides and does not provide in order to ensure you are choosing the right business type.
Registering a Master Business Licence or Business Name Registration (BNR) as a Sole Proprietorship, Partnership or Trade Name in Ontario provides:
- 5 Year Registration
- Ability to operate and advertise a business name in Ontario
- Documentation to open a business bank account, tax accounts, etc.
- Access to wholesale or discounted pricing from suppliers
- Possibility of applying for business grants
These business types DO NOT provide:
- Name protection for the business name in Ontario
- Limited liability protection for the individual owner(s)
- Potential Corporate tax benefits
- Flexibility to make changes to the registration
If you are concerned about business name protection, limited personal liability and other benefits not offered through a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership, you may want to incorporate your business. You can always choose to start off with small business registration and incorporate your business at a later date. The cost to register a corporation is higher; however, there is no need to renew a corporation, and you will have name protection in Ontario as well as limited liability protection and possible corporate tax benefits.
What is a company key?
Under the new Ontario Business Registry (OBR) system. Each new entity whether a Incorporation, Sole Proprietorship, or General Partnership will receive a 9 digit company key as part of the registration process.
How does the company key work?
The company key is a unique key exclusively to your business start up and is to be used with any subsequent filing for your business through the new system. The email address you provide will be attached to the company key. It is important to use an email address that you will use for your business over time.
Please ensure once you receive, you keep the company key in a place where you can retrieve it at a later date to do items like change either the business or personal address, change the business activity, renew or cancel the registration.
With each document filed or pulled from the new system, you will receive a QR code attached to any business document.
This code allows you to take a copy of the document from your cell phone and to save the information wherever you would like on your phone for fast retrieval and forwarded to others such as your financial institution, accountant, bookkeeper or business partner.
Registering Revenue Canada accounts
Ontario Business Central can also assist with registering any Revenue Canada accounts on your behalf if you require these to be set up. This can include the BN number, GST/HST, Payroll and Import/Export accounts.
When registering accounts with Revenue Canada for your Sole Proprietorship or Partnership, you will first be issued a Business Number (BN). This business number is linked directly to the business owners personally through your SIN and not to your Business Name Registration. Once this number has been created, any accounts you require with Revenue Canada can be set up. If you have a Trade Name, any Revenue Canada accounts are actually linked to the corporation.
You can request that we set up these accounts on your behalf when you submit your order for your Master Business Licence, and you would simply need to provide the SIN and date of birth of all owners on file when your completed business registration is sent to you.
When completing your tax filings for a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership, keep in mind that your business taxes and personal taxes will be filed together.
Why choose Ontario Business Central?
Ontario Business Central provides services above and beyond the Ministry and other service providers, including:
- Pre-screening your business information to check for possible errors or conflicts against any existing regulations that the Province of Ontario may have.
- Optional business name search, providing Canada-wide NUANS searches to pre-search for existing small businesses, corporations and trademarks.
- A copy of your registration is kept on file for the 5-years it is valid at no additional fee and can be resent to you upon request.
- A reminder email notification is sent to you before your expiry date, so you are able to renew on time.
The registration process varies between Provinces and Territories. If your business is located outside of Ontario, please feel free to contact our office for more information about your specific location.
Ontario Business Central can assist with registering your Master Business Licence quickly and easily.
Office Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Monday – Friday E.S.T.
Ontario Business Central Inc. is not a law firm and cannot provide a legal opinion or advice. This information is to assist you in understanding the requirements of registration within the chosen jurisdiction. It is always recommended, when you have legal or accounting questions that you speak to a qualified professional.